The Babadook is a scarily atmospheric, hauntingly creepy horror film that delivers in simple, effective storytelling. In a year full of anemic horror films and no true standouts, this highlight from the Sundance Film Festival is an independent gem fueled by callbacks to old forms of cinematic storytelling alongside hauntingly original set-ups. The story is simple: a widowed woman, Amelia (Essie Davis), is haunted by the violent death of her husband and must live alone with her son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman). He’s terrified of the dark and scares easily; as Amelia reads stories to him every night, he picks out a book she doesn’t recognize: the Babadook. The contents of its story are terrifying and frighten Samuel like nothing else. Their life becomes a nightmare, particularly when the book begins to extend past just a story and hits the family more directly. Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut is a brilliantly filmed feature built on actual scares, and lingers far past its initial viewing. It’s a great horror film.

Grade: ½ (out of 5)

Written by Eric Forthun